Life of FBi | Non-Tech Start-up Founder

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Posts Tagged ‘boston

A #StartupVisa Story: Goodbye Boston, Hello Shanghai, (Get Ready Montreal?)

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Last Saturday I took the famous Route 128 heading north from Boston for Maine for Christmas. Besides 20 minutes at South Station waiting for my Bolt Bus next week, Saturday was the last time I would be in Boston for sometime. Unfortunately, it wasn’t by choice. Early Thursday AM, there was an article from Wade Roush pushed lived onto Xconomy titled, Invent a Cool Clothing Company, Now Leave the Country – Fan Bi, Blank Label, and the case for the ‘Founder’s Visa’. Credit to Wade, it was a really comprehensive piece. He did a great job of giving Blank Label exposure which I had been hounding him about for a while. And he also drew attention to the #StartupVisa which I’ve been, sometimes anonymously, supporting. This post was an opportunity for me to respond, give insight as to what and who in Boston I will most miss, and talk briefly about the adventures for 2010.

[Photo: Cort Johnson and I talking about Blank Label prelaunch on Dart Boston’s Pokin’ Holes]

Before anything else, I just want to say that I was overwhelmed by the response from friends, people in the Boston startup community, and the general startup observing public. I received a several calls of shock, loads of emails of support and a large twitter mobilization looking to help. It’s hard enough founding a startup, but being concerned about keeping visibility low to not set off any immigration alarm bells whilst trying to publicize an innovative, interesting consumer startup was difficult. I remember when our first major feature piece was published in Forbes, and I was waiting anxiously that there wouldn’t be anyone pointing and saying, what’s going on here. The reality about starting a company on a student visa are honestly very grey. I had reached out to Brad Feld and Vivek Wadwha, who’ve been incredibly helpful and are the real white knights in all of this. They campaign for something much bigger than themselves, receiving criticism and abuse, but understanding the greater importance. This was a post Brad generously let me include on his blog. [Photo: Sitting down with Brad Feld at MassTLC unConference in August]

There’s a lot about Boston that I will miss, my girlfriend Caryn, my close friends from Babson and Olin college, the Dart Boston community, and the other young Boston entrepreneurs, 8 of whom I highlighted a few articles ago. More than just the people, it’s what the people represent, and what the people believe. And that’s Boston is an epicenter of opportunity for smart, risk-taking, young people to do extraordinary things. There’s this real sense of a Boston revolution through human catalysts like Scott Kirsner and Bill Warner. It seems like I came in at a good time. Before I came to Boston, I found the idea of entrepreneurship interesting. A year before that, I was certain I wanted to become an investment banking superstar. I had done a year full-time in investment research in London, I had worked in Sydney for PricewaterhouseCoopers and Macquarie Bank, but for some reason I thought I’d look into this ‘startup thing’. I came on exchange to Boston, studying at Babson College, with an idea that customized clothing for the masses would be interesting. I didn’t know anything about scaling, high-potential, building a team, tapping a niche, online marketing, e-commerce, venture capital. Well I pretty much didn’t know anything about anything, except that if you asked me to price a stock, I could do it in four different ways. Boston, in that one year, taught me everything I know about startups. Admittedly it isn’t much, but it’s a long way from where I started.

[Photo: down the main strip in Shanghai, Nanjing Rd]

Where does the new year and beyond take me. Well I’ve always been fairly opportunistic, so I thought I’d take my early exit out of the country to spend time on the supply side for Blank Label. We’ve seem some interesting first couple of months growth and soon we’ll be able to do some interesting logistics plays. We will be disparate, but we always have been. As many friend know, without a car and being stuck in the Boston suburb of Wellesley for college didn’t make traveling very easy, i.e. the team worked from their places of convenience and we’d only see each other once every couple of weeks. It’s personally very exciting to spend time in Shanghai, my city of birth. So many people speak of the promise there, I can improve my Chinese, get better in tune with the culture, I’m sure meet some interesting people. For Blank Label, it’s going to be incredibly beneficial to have someone absolutely accountable out there. My mandate is to make our product better, faster and cheaper than what it is now, and I’m confident that is possible.

What happens after that? I’ve had a lot of lawyers reach out to me in the last week or so, and we’re working on strategies that give me some hope. But I’m not too anxious. I might stay in Shanghai a bit longer, I might move to Montreal and commute to Boston, I might spend some time back home in Sydney. I’ve been fortunate for a recent 22 year old to have had an exciting life traveling, living and working in different parts of the world, and now it’s starting a company on two continents. I’m excited for where the journey takes me. Please don’t be a stranger and do say hi along the way.

Written by Fan Bi

December 23, 2009 at 2:48 am

8 Young Boston Entrepreneurs I’m Glad I Know

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last tuesday i attended the masschallenge #massaccess speed-networking event, and the evening really epitomized why i love boston so much. first, it was a great event so kudos to john, akhil and david for the great work. the format was really innovative, six 10min slots to meet six new people in an hour. with some 200 people or organize, the event was pretty well organized. there was sushi and open bar afterward which was a really nice treat. what was also really nice was being invited out to dinner by bill warner. a week after winning the masstlc innovation catalyst award, it was no great surprise to me for bill to round up a few youngens and invite us out to dinner, no great surprise but a really nice gesture nevertheless. he spoke of the changing startup scene in boston, and credited the involvement of a lot of young people being proactive within the startup scene. being a young person, in the boston scene, i thought i’d shed a spotlight on a few youngens doing some interesting things.

the best thing about all these guys is they’d genuinely love to help in any way they can …

evan morikawatwitter and linkedin

someone i’ve openly said that i’d love to co-found a company with one day, evan’s a brilliantly smart engineer, specializing in software. what makes evan’s relatively unique is his understanding and love of design, both raw graphic as well as user design. his team is pushing hard on a saas education startup, alight learning. the alpha is currently being tested by teachers, with hundreds more waiting for the beta.

jeremy levinetwitter and linkedin

i’ve been really impressed with jer’s progress in the last few months on his sports stock market startup, star street. they’ve planning on launching in a few months, and with every guy jer talks to get excited about the opportunity to trade their favorite sports players, i’m excited for him. he’s equally excited about the developing boston startup scene, having moved back to cambridge from syracuse where he went to school.

jason evanishtwitter, blog and linkedin

one of the most active young networkers in boston, the face and brains behind greenhorn connect, an aggregation of boston startup events, and other resources, i think jason’s actually trying to do the impossible and actually make it to all the events on offer, so don’t be surprised if he tweets about multiple events in the same evening. so if you want any advice on how to get the most out of boston, especially as a young startup enthusiast, evanish is totally the guy to connect with.

michael raybmantwitter and linkedin

a startup i personally can’t wait till launch, way savvy is a flexible travel search site that shows me what the best options are if i just wanted to go skiing sometime this winter with a rough budget of $500, i.e. it’s for those without exact dates months in advance, and exact destinations. i mean i just want to go boarding somewhere cheap, don’t really care when or wear. michael is the founder and they’re planning launch late this year/early next year.

danny wongtwitter and linkedin

someone who regularly makes me feel guilty that i’m not working hard enough, not because i’m genuinely not, but rather because this guy’s an absolute beast. someone you’ll be relieved to have on your team, we’re definitely lucky to have danny as blank label’s lead traffic controller. he oversees all our seo/sem, social media and networking, and affiliate marketing. a great networker in his own right, especially in the domain of of online marketing.

chris jacobsbusinessweek profile

winner of this year’s businessweek 25 under 25, i can say from living with this guy, he has one of the biggest and craziest personalities of anyone i know, which is really saying something given most of the people i hang around are startup people, and by nature supposed to be a little crazy. he is a partner at emergent energy group, a renewable energy consulting startup with over 30 clients. they’re more excited projects they’re entering into are in urban development, definitely one to look out for.

cort johnsontwitter and linkedin; and jake cacciapagliatwitter and linkedin

these two are quite attached at the hip, but of the dozens of times i’ve seen them, i think i can honestly say that i’ve never seem them more than 10 feet apart, and have definitely never seen them independent of each other. the guys behind what is becoming a cornerstone of the young boston startup scene, #pokinholes, dart boston has also expanded to #rule53 and #captialize. these guys are both true connectors, they passionate promote youth entrepreneurship in the form of giving the limelight to young boston entrepreneurs actually starting companies

the great thing about these guys is that they’re all 25 or under. i can’t wait to see what they do in the next 25 years. whatever it is, i just hope that it’s in boston.

of course there’s no forgetting matt lauzon and seth priebatsch, the founders of paragon lake and scvngr, respectively. but they’re already well on the way to making it so need to give them more praise then they’ve already received … kudos to highland, the venture backer of both these young rockstars

Written by Fan Bi

November 23, 2009 at 1:04 am


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